Companies hire people based on the skills and knowledge they can offer to help achieve business goals. Forming strong friendships with others is usually not a job requirement, but when considering the number of hours employees work together, office friendships are likely to occur. Understanding both the benefits and harm that workplace friendships can create will help your organization maintain a professional work environment while creating a friendly atmosphere that positively affects business performance.
A 2010 survey from recruitment company Randstad revealed that a majority of American workers are happier at their jobs because of their office friendships. Survey participants credit work friends with making their jobs more fun, enjoyable, worthwhile and satisfying. Not only do office friendships benefit employees, but they also provide organizations with several advantages. Here are a few examples:
- Friendships create a more enjoyable workplace, which promotes greater employee engagement and increases individual productivity.
- Friends give each other feedback. Receiving constructive criticism from peers versus supervisors is sometimes easier to digest and correct.
- Work gets stressful and talking to friends who have similar responsibilities provides workers with positive outlets to release frustrations.
- A friendly work environment yields creativity because employees feel comfortable being themselves and are able to think more freely.
- Team members who know each other on more personal levels might work together more effectively and efficiently than with those who do not.
Although there are many positive outcomes that come from office friendships, knowing the negatives will help your company establish boundaries and guidelines for staff members to follow if they plan to pursue friendships. Watch out for these situations:
- Too much non-work chatter can turn focus away from work and lead to decreased productivity.
- Office friendships that end unfavorably can create tension for all parties involved. Backstabbing and sabotage can happen as well.
- Coworkers who form bonds can create cliques and leave others out to create favoritism.
- Inappropriate behavior from colleagues, such as tardiness or not completing work, might be ignored or enabled by staff members who are friends.
- Pals who have negative views about their employers have the potential to get others to share their views, which can result in decreased company loyalty.
Organizations wanting to prevent the adverse effects of workplace friendship sometimes implement strict fraternization policies, but employees are often capable of finding ways around restrictions. Here are some guidelines to present to your staff in order to uphold a professional work environment and allow employees to be friends:
- Work pays the bills, so stay focused on your assigned projects and tasks. Time at work should be professional and focused on driving business—not socializing.
- You received your assignments for a reason. Do not miss deadlines or lose sight of your goals to help friends who are behind on their projects.
- Office gossip is not tolerated. Information that you would not tell the boss should not be told to colleagues.
- Do not share too much personal information with your coworkers. Private topics, such as salary history or performance review results, should be avoided in conversation.
- Respect personal and professional boundaries with your colleagues. Just because you have a personal relationship with a coworker does not entitle you to put them in an awkward position inside or outside of the office.
For more information on how to handle workplace friendships, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.
Photo source: peyri